Cusco is un pueblo incaico, which means that it is an Incan town. Essentially, this city exists because of the Incans, unlike Pisac, which was built by the conquistadores. Needless to say, this place is old. What tends to come along with old buildings are old stories; however, these are not just “stories.” These stories weave in tales of brujería, fantasmas, mágico, and the sorts. Witchcraft, ghosts, magic, things that cannot be explained scientifically according to people from Cusco. Or perhaps they can – the people just prefer to use these stories to explain supernatural phenomena. Personally, I think a ghost-themed TV show would do beautifully here. After a quick Google search in English, Cusco has haunted houses and black magic folklore galore. Thankfully, my roommate, Rachel, also enjoys brujería, and we dedicated one evening to the most haunted places in Cusco and whether or not we could visit them. After pestering profe about possible ghost tours and the like, he indulged to us the existence of something that perfectly fits the definition of black magic: El Niño Compadrito.
El Niño Compadrito is thought to be either the mummy of a young boy or a monkey. His worshipping began around the 1960s, but no one really knows the origin of this young boy/monkey/thing. He has eyes (blue marbles), eyelashes (fake), and hair (again, fake) that add to his presence. He is also dressed up with a crown and some dress of some sort. After reading articles on the Internet and different stories, my curiosity wasn’t diminished; rather, I was determined to find him. After touring the chapel in Cusco, I asked our tour guide about El Niño Compadrito, and she said that she would happily take me and whoever else would like to go visit him/the animal/it. He is located in a discreet location, where you would only know that he’s there if you either knew about it previously or asked a local. Our tour guide knew the street, but she didn’t know the correct house number; she asked a woman who was seated nearby, who casually answered in Spanish, “It’s two doors down on the right.” We stood outside of the blue door, not knowing what to expect.
As the door opens, we walk up some steps to approach a very old man selling candles of different colors. A sign nearby describes what each color is for: red for love, white for health, yellow for money, green for work, blue for studies, pink for triumph, purple for miracles, orange for happiness, and black for justice. They cost 50 soles, which is about fifteen cents in America. We didn’t light any, but a few of us did leave a tip.
El Niño Compadrito is surrounded by flowers and jewelry, and the walls surrounding him include posters, thanking him for all that he did. The majority of these seemed to have been made by children, but there were also police badges of those who prayed to him for help. There were people of all ages there, including a woman who had trouble standing up after praying to him and a little girl who was more intrigued by the group of gringos that decided to show up. In summary, this was a true cult. However, what I found most interesting was that we were welcomed. There was no one at the door to stop us, and no one minded that we gazed upon El Niño for ourselves.
I thought he was going to be much bigger from the images of him online, but in reality, he’s tiny. I have absolutely no skill/practice with identifying the age/species of something from its bones, but there is truly no way that El Niño is a boy; he must be a monkey of some sort. His head is extremely small, and the glass case he was in was very small as well. I also wondered if these people came straight from church; the majority of them are Catholics, interestingly enough.
As if this experience wasn’t odd enough, as we were leaving, saying bye to the old man, a woman was carrying her sick child to present to El Niño. Now, I don’t have a lot of experience with cults, but does anyone know if they are always this friendly?